Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
- $96bn lost globally to electricity fraud
- US alone loses $6bn
Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED), one of Nigeria’s 11 DisCos, says it is losing N2.5 billion each month due to energy theft and other associated infractions by some customers in the system, Henry Ajagbawa, PHED managing director lamented in a public forum in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
However, Business A.M. checks reveal that all of Nigeria’s electricity distribution companies jointly lose over N30 billion monthly.
According to Opus Energy, energy theft is sometimes known as ‘meter cheating’ because it often involves finding ways to consume energy while bypassing a meter, so that it can’t be accurately measured, recorded or paid for.
Smart-Energy International (SEI), an energy grid management outfit said, estimates indicate that globally theft and fraud of electricity costs the industry as much as $96 billion every year, with the United States alone losing as much as $6 billion yearly. SEI also said “no utility provider is immune to attempts to steal power.”
For Ajagbawa, PHED boss, the impact of energy theft is impacting negatively on the business continuity of the company. He said the DisCo was set to name and shame the offenders, and make them face the wrath of law.
He warned the offenders to desist from such wicked act capable of threatening the sustainability of the company; insisting that they would work tirelessly to ensure that every electricity offender was brought to book.
“We are determined to eradicate energy theft in the system; and that’s why we are collaborating with the security agencies. Any customer caught by-passing or tampering with our meter will not only be named and shamed, but shall in addition face the full weight of law; and thereafter made to pay loss of revenue arising from the unwholesome act,” he said.
The PHED managing director explained that energy theft should not only be the concerns of distribution companies, but the concerns of all Nigerians, and curbing it remains one of the ways through which services can be improved in the power industry. “One of the ways that we can survive and improve on our services is when customers pay their bills, and stop meter bypass. We are coming after those who are involved in meter bypass; and we will get back what belongs to us,” Ajagbawa said.
He is also advocating for a legislation to criminalize energy theft and vandalism of electricity facilities.
Business A.M. recalls that penultimate week, PHED had accused the Cross River State’s water company (CRSWBL) of engaging in ‘meter bypassing,’ while cutting off the power source to the water company’s headquarters on Marian Road in Calabar, the state capital over unpaid N177.7 million utility bill.